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2006-10-24 11:30
Italian group Fiat is planning to invest $1 billion in Latin America in a bid to sell more cars in the region, the Financial Times reported.

Cledorvino Belini, head of Fiat's south American operations, told the newspaper the company planned to invest the cash in South America and Mexico in the three years to the end of 2008.

The money, most of which would be channelled into designs and improved production processes at Belo Horizonte in Brazil, was double the amount spent between 2003 and 2005, the FT said.

Fiat hopes to boost its share of the Latin American car market to 15 percent from 12 percent - overtaking troubled US auto maker Ford it said.

Belini told the newspaper he thought it was "realistic" to achieve this target by 2010.

"I'd like to see us eventually gain a 25 percent market share across the whole of Latin America but, in the next few years, would settle for a lower figure," he said.

Mexico is a key market for growth.

"About 1.1 million new cars a year are sold in Mexico - which means it is Latin America's second-largest car market - but at the moment Fiat is barely present in this country," Belini told the FT.

He said his plans would mean Fiat selling 120 000 vehicles per year in Latin America on top of the 500 000 it already sells, the newspaper reported.

It was not immediately possible to obtain a comment from Fiat on the article.

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